London Buses route 38

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Arriva London bus LT6 (LT12 FHT), route 38, 5 May 2013.jpg
New Routemaster in May 2013
Operator Arriva London
Garage Clapton (CT)
Vehicle New Routemaster
Peak vehicle requirement 59
Night-time Night Bus N38
Start Clapton Pond
Via Essex Road
End Victoria bus station
Length 7 miles (11 km)
Level Daily
Frequency 2-5 minutes
Journey time 45-68 minutes
Operates 05:30 until 01:30

London Buses route 38 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Clapton Pond and Victoria bus station, it is operated by Arriva London. The route is the most frequent in London with a bus every minute during the morning peak.


Route 38 was introduced on 16 June 1912 as a Monday to Saturday route between Victoria and Leyton Green via Angel, Dalston, Clapton and Lea Bridge Road and between Victoria and Epping Forest on Sundays. It was operated from Leyton garage, which opened on the same day. In 1913 a 38A was introduced, taking over the Sunday service and operating between Victoria and Epping Forest.

World War I restrictions saw many changes to routes 38 and 38A including withdrawals over certain sections for short periods. The most important of these occurred on 15 May 1916 when the 38 and 38A exchanged their eastern branches permanently. Route 38 was withdrawn between the Bakers Arms and Woodford and re-routed to Walthamstow (Hoe street station). In 1919 a 38B was added, running through to Loughton, with the 38A only running as far as Woodford. The 38A disappeared in 1921.

On 1 December 1924, a new system of route numbering on London Buses came into force under The London Traffic Act of 1924. Route 38 was unchanged; route 38B was renumbered to 138. Both routes had short working suffixed journeys numbered 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 138A, 138B as well as 38E, which was the main daily route Victoria Station to Chingford. This situation remained until 3 October 1934, when the newly constituted London Passenger Transport Board instituted its own numbering system. The 38, 38A and 38E became plain 38. The 138 became 38A.

From 5 January 1938, on Mondays to Fridays only, route 38 was reduced between Leyton and Chingford and route 38A withdrawn completely. In replacement a route 38B was introduced between Loughton, Woodford, Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford. From 3 August 1938 route 38B was withdrawn, and routes 38 and 38A returned to normal.

As a wartime economy routes 38 and 38A were re-routed between Clapton and Dalston on the direct route via Cricketfield Road (avoiding Hackney) on 5 May 1943. On 15 April 1959 route 38A was re-routed via Hackney Central station to replace withdrawn trolleybus route 581. From 1946 until 1965, route 38 also had a summer Sunday extension from Chingford station to Epping Forest via Rangers Road and Epping New Road.

Following the opening of the first section of the Victoria line between Walthamstow Central and Highbury & Islington; on 7 September 1968 a large scale re-organisation of London Buses took place. Route 38A was withdrawn, being replaced by three new routes; Red Arrow route 505 between Victoria and Piccadilly Circus, route 48 between Dalston and Whipps Cross and route 20 between Leyton and Loughton. Between Dalston and Hackney route 38A was also replaced by a re-routed 38, which was cut back from Chingford to Walthamstow Garage, being replaced by route 69 over this section.

On 25 October 1969 route 38 was further cut back to terminate at Leyton Green, being replaced on the Walthamstow section by the newly introduced route 55. The Sunday service was converted to one-person operation on 6 June 1987. When London Buses was divided into 11 subsidiaries operation of route 38 was taken over by London Forest. On 24 February 1990, the 38 was controversially cut back on Mondays to Saturdays from Leyton Green to terminate at Clapton Pond. It was replaced over this section by the newly introduced route 56. London Forest was wound up in 1991; the route then became a joint operation between Leaside Buses and East London, before being transferred to Leaside Buses.[1] The Sunday service through to Leyton Green was withdrawn from 19 July 1997.

On 2 June 2002 the Sunday service was converted back to crew operation. In preparation for the introduction of the London congestion charge, in July 2002 peak hour frequency increased. On 29 June 2005, route 38 was converted to one man operation with the AEC Routemasters replaced by Mercedes-Benz O530G articulated buses.[2][3]

Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bodied Volvo B9TL double deck buses were introduced on 14 November 2009 as part of the Mayor of London's policy to withdraw articulated buses from London. The frequency increased of the route was increasd to every 2-3 minutes and the peak vehicle requirement was increased from 47 to 68. Originally, the peak vehicle requirement was to be 72, but four buses were saved by curtailing every other bus at Hackney Central. When the route was crew operated it required 50 Routemasters.[4]

Eight prototype New Routemasters were introduced in February 2012[5][6][7]

New Routemasters were introduced on 10 May 2014. The rear platform remains open between Victoria and Mildmay Park from Monday to Friday between 07:00 and 18:00 when it is staffed by a customer assistant.[8]

Current route[edit]

Route 38 operates via these primary locations:[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Grime MC and Bow, E3 resident Wiley has mentioned the route 38 in his lyrics. An example of which is "I'm like the 38 bus cos I never turn up!".[10]

A Routemaster bus with route 38 blinds is displayed in the Falkland Islands capital of Port Stanley.[11]


  1. ^ McLachlan, Tom (1995). London Buses 1985-1995: Managing The Change. Venture Publications. p. 61. ISBN 1-898432-74-0. 
  2. ^ Goodbye Piccadilly: The End of the 38 London Bus Routes 28 October 2005
  3. ^ A trip down memory lane for last No.38 Routemaster The Times
  4. ^ Press Release Transport for London
  5. ^ New Routemaster bus unveiled in London BBC News, 16 December 2011
  6. ^ "New route for Ballymena's new 'Boris bus'". BBC News. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "'Cleanest, greenest' bus runs from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico". ITV. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Press Release Transport For London
  9. ^ Route 38 Map Transport for London
  10. ^ The Essential…Wiley FACT,
  11. ^ Don't mention the war The Daily Telegraph, 17 March 2007

External links[edit]